September 10 was a normal day in Benghazi for Ambassador Chris Stevens.He showed up at work, ran around town conducting business and in consideration of September 11 the following day, he spent the night at the consulate.
The following is the State Department’s version of what actually happened: Stevens never left the consulate compound on the eleventh, preferring to conduct meetings within the nine-foot walls topped by barbed wire, rather than venture out and risk any hostilities on the anniversary of 9/11.
Much has been made of Stevens’ request for additional security, but he actually got four local militia in addition to his five security officers assigned to the consulate that day.
By 8:30 p.m. the crew had spent an uneventful day within the walls and likely thought they were home free.
It was then that Stevens walked a Turkish official outside the compound’s main entrance, noticed all was quiet and went inside to retire for the night.
Within about an hour of the official’s departure, guards hear gunfire, explosions and a general uproar outside the front gate. They run to the cameras and see a massive group of armed men pouring into the compound before sounding the alarm, calling the Tripoli embassy, Washington officials, Libyan authorities, and a local US quick response team about a mile away.
Then the guards break from the monitors and the phones grabbing weapons on their way to sweep Stevens and IT specialist Sean Smith to the consulate’s safe room.
One agent takes the pair inside while the rest gear up with rifles, body armour and everything they’ll need for battle.
The safe room is well-fortified and contains water, medical supplies and windows that open from the inside. What it doesn’t have is a proper ventilation system to prevent the fire ripping through the building’s furnishings, from filling the room with smoke.While the attackers can’t get into the safe room, they manage to kill Stevens and the IT specialist with the smoke and drive the agent out a window. Despite repeated dives back into the safe room, the guard can’t find the other men and clambers to the roof of the compound where he calls in reinforcements.
The four remaining American agents rush to Stevens’ building in an armoured vehicle to find the collapsed agent and set up a perimeter. Finally, after taking turns going into the safe room on hands and knees the guards find Stevens and his companion dead on the floor.
As they’re getting the bodies into the armoured vehicle, the response team shows up with about five dozen Libyan militiamen who attempt to secure the perimeter. They can’t, and decide to all retreat to the response team’s compound.
Carrying the two bodies in the armoured vehicle, agents leave the consulate travelling a leisurely 15 mph to avoid drawing attention. Not far from where they started, a team of men urgently signal them inside an enclosed area, but sensing an attack agents hurry off drawing AK-47 fire from as close as two feet away.
Hand grenades are thrown at and beneath the vehicle taking out two of its tires, so agents respond by crossing a median, and driving into traffic to make their escape.
Once inside the response team’s compound, the team takes up positions and draws gunfire and rocket propelled grenade attacks well into the morning.
While that had been going on, a team of reinforcements from the US Embassy in Tripoli had arrived at the Benghazi airport to assist. They join the fight, but it’s not enough and two more agents are killed by a mortar attack.
It’s become a full blown battle and at about 4 a.m. the decision is made to get the hell out. The hours until daylight are filled with assembling a convoy capable of carrying everyone from the city to safety.
The group and the deceased finally arrive at the airport on the twelfth and evacuate on two flights.
None of this takes into account Steven’s body with the locals, or any other of the several details leaked to the press, but it does wrap the attack up in one neat package.
The perpetrators of the attack are still at large.
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